Yoga in Life Skills Education: A Guide for Educators

Dr Homayun Taba, Bombay

Yoga is a form of comprehensive education that can be utilized by children to develop physical stamina and flexibility, emotional stability, intellectual and creative talents. A close study of the processes reveals that the yoga tradition cannot be confined to only the physical or the postural; it enters into a deeper engagement and exploration of the psychological and emotional domains.

If understood in its totality, yoga can lead to valuable insights and be of great help in laying the foundation for leading a meaningful life.

Extensive research on intelligence shows that for too long our education has favoured linguistic and mathematical intelligences, and most IQ tests are based on these aspects. This has led us to undervalue and to ignore the development of other complementary facets of intelligence. Reading this in the light of the parts of ashtanga yoga, we see that in the yoga tradition most of these intelligences are addressed and developed.

There are several schools of yoga which, though different in approach, have similar underlying assumptions:

  • Body and mind are connected; the health of one affects the other.
  • Regular practices in the form of asana as well as relaxation are recommended for their revitalizing and tranquilizing effects on the system.
  • Discipline that starts at the level of the body soon moves to the mental aspects. The overall effect is an increase in the effectiveness of the individual in whatever she/he undertakes.
  • Balance is important in all that one does, neither indulgence nor deprivation.
  • Development of healthy attitudes such as cleanliness and contentment.
  • Psycho-mental work, through introspective and various meditational methods, with the aim of bringing about clarity of understanding and self-awareness.
  • Harmony with self, others and nature.

The introduction of yoga in schools for all children has to be through simple practices appropriate to the ages of the children. The aim is to help children free their mental and creative energies in a constructive manner, so as to lead to self-confidence and self-awareness.

For those students who are interested and can spare the time, additional classes could be arranged. These would include rhythmic movements and some selected simplified asana for stretching, toning the muscles and creating flexibility within the skeletal system, as well as the development and maintenance of healthy nervous and endocrinal systems. The overall effect would be heightened sensitivity, balanced energy and improved attentiveness. Students could be made to articulate and share their findings with each other which would result in many insights both for the students as well as the teachers.

The context of the yoga tradition, based on the dimensions explained, is necessary for the understanding of teachers. However, the actual imparting of the practices needs to be extremely simple and basic. Already, enough research material is emerging, notably from France, about the beneficial effects of simple yoga education in schools.

We need to start a pilot program for teachers, irrespective of the subjects they teach. They will then be able to use these skills before the start of each class session – for a few minutes only. The teachers themselves will benefit from their learning of yoga, and this in turn will enhance their own effectiveness in the classroom.